The Landscape Guide
BRITAIN: contents
1.1 Garden making in gardens in the British Isles: introduction
Garden of Eden and The Fall
Monastic gardens
Castle gardens 
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The Garden of Eden as shown on the frontispiece to the most popular seventeenth century book on English garden plants: John Parkinson's Paridisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris, 1629. The inscription at the top of the page is the Hebrew name of God and the French peom at the bottom of the page proclaims: 'Whoever wants to compare Art with Nature and our parks with Eden, indiscreetly measures the stride of the elephant by the stride of the mite and the flight of the eagle by that of the gnat'. Parkinson thus defines the issue which set the course of English garden design for the next four centuries: the relationship between Art and Nature.

Introduction to Chapter 1

One of the great divides in the history of English garden design is marked by the Civil War of 1642-49. No gardens survive from before the War and after its completion garden designers became subject to a new range of influences which brought about a dynamic period of stylistic development - and the creation of several uniquely English styles of garden and landscape design. The War and its associated troubles also caused proprietors to reconsider the objectives of garden design. They came to use their estates less as a background to gay social events and more as places of secure retreat from the dangers of political and religious strife. In so doing they looked back to an older tradition which celebrated the garden as a place in which use could be combined with beauty, pleasure with profit, and work with contemplation. This tradition derives from Greek and Roman philosophy and from Christian theology.  

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The first element of the gardening ideal to take root in England came from the biblical account of the Fall. The Book of Genesis recounts the story as follows:  

And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight; and good for food; and the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and keep it.  

But Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command and ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil  

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.   

It is evident that man was charged with horticultural duties both before and after his fall from grace. Before his expulsion from paradise he was required to 'dress and keep' the garden of Eden. After the fall from grace he was condemned to cultivate the ground 'in the sweat of thy face' and to eat the herb of the field. A distinction has been drawn between the pleasurable task of tending a garden and the onerous task of eking a livelihood from ground strewn with thorns and thistles.

 It therefore appeared to Christian thinkers that gardening was one of the purest and most divine activities open to man. It was a way of recreating the paradise which man had once shared with God.

 This consideration was deeply felt by Christian monks who devoted their lives to a routine of prayer and manual work. Monastic gardens provided fruit and vegetables for the kitchen, herbs for the hospital, and flowers with which to decorate altars and shrines. The original meaning of 'rosary' was a rose garden and the most widely grown devotional flowers were the rose and the lily. In some monasteries each monk had a private garden attached to his cell which could be used for flowers, fruit and vegetables or anything. The days were passed in work and in contemplation.

 The monastic gardening tradition came to England with the Norman conquest of 1066. It had a pervasive influence on Medieval gardens both as an attitude to gardening and as a source of scientific knowledge. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it became overlain with renaissance gardening ideas. There are many gardens in the British Isles which have been made on the sites of monasteries. Large portions of the monastery buildings survive but no monastery gardens.

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The Normans built castles wherever they went. They were used as a means of subjugating newly acquired territory. Unlike Roman forts, which had been garrisoned by troops, Norman castles were social and residential centres, inhabited by the grand families who gave force to the feudal system. The classic Norman castle, known as a motte-and-bailey, was a fortified ditch with a mound at its centre. Stone eventually replaced wood as the material for building castles. Towers were constructed on the mottes. In times of war, peasants and animals would take refuge in the bailey. In times of peace, the ladies of the house could use the space for gardening. No examples survive but there are descsriptions in poems and many old castles where one can view the space which must have held gardens. In some cases, such as Kenilworth Castle, there are records of knot gardens made in post-medieval times. There are also many old castles with post-medieval gardens

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